Footprints are the impressions or images left behind by a person walking or running. Hoofprints and pawprints are those left by animals with hooves or paws rather than feet, while "shoeprints" is the specific term for prints made by shoes. They may either be indentations in the ground or something placed onto the surface that was stuck to the bottom of the foot. A "trackway" is set of footprints in soft earth left by a life-form; animal tracks are the footprints, hoofprints, or pawprints of an animal.
Footprints can be followed when tracking during a hunt or can provide evidence of activities. Some footprints remain unexplained, with several famous stories from mythology and legend. Others have provided evidence of prehistoric life and behaviours.
The print left behind at a crime scene can give vital evidence to the perpetrator of the crime. Shoes have many different prints based on the sole design and the wear that it has received – this can help to identify suspects. Photographs or castings of footprints can be taken to preserve the finding. Analysis of footprints and shoeprints is a specialist part of forensic science.
Some detective work is relatively immediate, with criminals being tracked by the footprints they left in the snow leading from the crime scene to their home or hiding place. This is usually reported as a humorous story in news publications.
Footprints can also allow the detective to find the approximate height from, footprint and shoeprint. The Foot tends to be approximately 15% of the person's average height. Individualistic characteristics of the footprints like numerous creases, flatfoot character, horizontal and vertical ridges, corns, deformities etc. can help the forensic scientist in cases pertaining to criminal identification. In some forensic cases, the need may also arise to estimate body weight from the size of the footprints.
Footprints have been shown to have determine the height and the sex of the individual.
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